At least one human rights worker is questioning the recent arrests of suspected Cambodian Freedom Fighters for what appears to be charges based merely on the men’s affiliation with the rebel group.
No crimes have been committed by any of the men, contended the rights worker, who asked not to be named.
“It needs to be questioned, very much questioned from a human rights standpoint, that someone should ever be apprehended or arrested due to their association with any organization,” the rights worker said. “This is a basic fundamental right of freedom of association.”
A government spokesman said the evidence against those arrested last week, including four men in Phnom Penh and seven men in Battambang, consists chiefly of their names appearing on a list found on the computer of Richard Kiri-Kim, a Cambodian-American considered a top lieutenant in the CFF, who was convicted in June of leading a botched raid on the government last November.
The list outlines the structure of the CFF, said Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak. He said the list contains “hundreds” of names and is in the hands of Phnom Penh authorities.
Additional evidence was found during the arrests, including grenades, CFF flags and confessions, said Sok Roeun, a prosecutor in Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Government officials said the arrests foiled a CFF raid planned for the Pchum Bun festival, which ends Monday.
CFF leader Chhun Yasith has denied that the latest suspects arrested are CFF members.
Government officials are unconvinced. “Chhun Yasith is a terrorist, [just like those] who are being condemned around the world,” Khieu Sopheak said, referring to Tuesday’s attack on the US.
Khieu Sopheak characterized the arrests as a preventative measure.
Asked if he thought the CFF would carry out Chhun Yasith’s announced threat to attack before the end of the year, Khieu Sopheak said, “No way. They don’t have enough strength, men or equipment.”